A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this grim thriller about the spread of a deadly, fast-acting global virus helmed by Oscar-winner director Steven Soderbergh and populated by an all-star cast (including Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, among many others), may be too intense and/or overwhelming for younger kids given its stark, uncompromising depictions of death and the somber, sometimes scary exploration of what it's like to live in a constant state of fear. Expect disturbing imagery (including a gory autopsy) and mature themes, such as death (in one case, of a child) and infidelity. There's also some swearing (including "s--t") and social drinking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), a married Minneapolis executive, flies to Hong Kong on business. Upon her return, she's gripped with flu-like symptoms, has a seizure in her kitchen, and dies. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), is in shock. Meantime, the Center for Disease Control is flooded with calls from around the country -- and the globe; whatever killed Beth is killing plenty of other people, too. Meanwhile, a blogger (Jude Law) is convinced of a government conspiracy and hypes an alternative remedy, while others are up in arms and start looting. It's up to Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and his investigators (including Kate Winslet), as well as other scientists and doctors around the world, to identify the agent and find a cure before the planet loses millions more citizens.
Is it any good?
With a stellar cast, a gripping pace, and a subject matter as hard to shake as the virus that spreads through its story, CONTAGION is a winner. (When your first instinct after seeing the movie is to attempt not to touch anything on your way home and to wash your hands thoroughly, you know it hit its marks.) Though some cast members have more camera time than others -- Damon, for instance, who's first rate, and Fishburne, in a meaty, satisfying role -- the film is a masterful ensemble piece in which no one hogs the spotlight.
Given the subject matter, it's surprising how Contagion doesn't unfold like a hospital-based TV drama. Jargon pops up in seemingly organic and very necessary moments; it's explained well, too. Emotional moments are used selectively, grounding the film in humanity without becoming maudlin (or manipulative). An Internet subplot hovers dangerously close to excess, but manages to pull away from the brink. All in all, it's a Soderbergh win.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes this film scary and/or intense. Is it the tone? The subject matter? Are you scared that something like this could really happen?
Parents, talk to your kids about any fears the movie raises. For tips, try this article.
How does the movie portray the Internet as a source of information regarding disease and health?
- In theaters: September 9, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 3, 2012
- Cast: Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon
- Director: Steven Soderbergh
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: disturbing content and some language
- Last updated: February 24, 2021
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